George Monbiot wrote an article this week which has struck a chord with me called Backwards Reasoning. It is something we all do – reason backwards. If we’ve already made up our minds about something, then we reason with ourselves to justify that conclusion. If we don’t like a particular conclusion, we reject the premise. He uses David Bellamy – esteemed British botanist and environmentalist – as an example. David Bellamy does not like the sight of wind farms marching across the English countryside so he rejects the science of climate change. Here’s a video in which he gets humiliated in a debate with George Monbiot about melting glaciers:
This has made me think about my own values and how they might influence me. For one thing, I just want to ride my bike so I will embrace anything that gives me the freedom to do that which includes congestion charges, parking fees, petrol hikes and basically anything that makes life hard for motorists including …. the science of climate change. I also love the cold and especially love snow, so the threat of an ice-free planet is depressing for me even though I know I will be dead before this happens (I’m specifically referring to Antarctica here which will take a thousand years or more to melt completely. I’m fairly sure I’ll still be alive when the Arctic goes completely ice-free though). I reckon there will be people in the future who also love snow and cold as much as I do.
So what are the values of the people who reject climate science that might influence their decision in doing so? For David Bellamy it was because he did not like the look of wind farms. For others it is possibly that they see climate science as a threat to their lifestyles – driving cars, using air-conditioning to cool their homes and so on. Perhaps they feel they will no longer be able to do these things. Although I don’t care much for cars and in fact see them as a hostile barrier to my love of cycling, I think we’re stuck with them for good. Cars may lose some of their significance in coming decades as younger generations embrace public transport and walking but I imagine they will be with us for the long haul although they will eventually run on something other than oil. I don’t imagine people will have to turn off the air-conditioners in any great hurry either. They will just run on something other than coal and gas. The people of Iceland already power their homes with 100% renewables so it does not seem like an insurmountable problem to me. France gets less than 2% of its power from oil and gas, most of it comes from nuclear which is carbon-free.
We’re about to head out now so I’ll leave it at that. I just want to finish up by saying that although I can recognize this backwards reasoning in myself, my conclusion is correct 😉